Noam Chomsky Theory of Language Acquisition Device
What is the Noam Chomsky Theory of Language Acquisition Device?
Noam Chomsky’s theory of language acquisition device is a model developed by linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky to structure human capacities for language. It was introduced in his 1957 book, Syntactic Structures.
It focuses on describing the architecture that allows us, humans, to learn these complex systems easily. The basis for this claim lies within our biological make-up: we are born.
The Noam Chomsky Theory of Language Acquisition Device holds that humans are born with an innate language acquisition device, which allows them to learn any human language. It argues that innate structures in the brain allow for the human ability to learn and use languages.
Further, this concept was developed during a time when many debated whether humans were “blank slates” at birth and acquired skills as they grew up. This idea became popularized since it allowed for an easy explanation of how children learned to understand their native language so quickly (and seemingly effortlessly).
It becomes one of the most influential and controversial linguistic theories in history. Its application for understanding historical linguistics makes it a foundational model for modern linguistics as well as cognitive science (Fitch).
It is also used to explain how children acquire language so easily while learning little by little every single day during their formative years (Chomsky).
The Chomsky hierarchy of grammar has been a widely accepted theory. However, several linguists and philosophers dispute this hierarchical structure consisting of phrase structure grammar, context-free grammar, and then regular languages.
Noam Chomsky Language Development Stages
Noam Chomsky’s theory, which he named the language acquisition device (LAD), is one of the most influential linguistics theories. It presents a specific model for how children can learn languages so easily.
Linguist Stephen Pinker has referred to Noam Chomsky as “the father of modern linguistics” and said that his work transformed the field into a true science.
Noam Chomsky, a well-known linguist, was one of the first researchers to develop language development stages. He started researching this topic in 1957 and published his findings in the book “The Growth of Language” (1957).
Since then, he has been studying various languages to understand how children learn them. His research showed that each child develops their own language at their own pace according to their mental ability and exposure to speech from other people.
There are 7 stages of language development in how children learn to speak.
|Stage||Age||Developmental Language and Communication|
|1||0–3 months||Reflexive communication|
|2||3–8 months||Reflexive communication; interest in others|
|3||8–12 months||Intentional communication; sociability|
|4||12–18 months||First words|
|5||18–24 months||Simple sentences of two words|
|6||2–3 years||Sentences of three or more words|
|7||3–5 years||Complex sentences; has conversations|
Noam Chomsky Universal Grammar Theory
The language acquisition device (LAD) theory hypothesizes that children are born with an innate ability to acquire any human language. LAD was proposed by Noam Chomsky in his book “Cartesian Linguistics,” and it has been the dominant model for studying how children learn languages since its publication.
The LAD argues that there is an innate, universal language acquisition device that enables children to learn any human language with little or no formal instruction.
This device contains the rules of grammar and syntax for all languages. Children are born with this ability, and it can be used at any time in life to teach another language.
Chomsky later extended his concept of a language acquisition device to universal grammar (UG). He argues that “we can think of universal grammar as a set of principles that characterizes the class of possible grammars by defining how specific grammars are structured, how the different rules of these components are built, how they interact, and so on.”
Chomsky (1980) asserts that universal grammar is the “property of human biological endowment”
According to Chomsky (1980) universal grammar, “the analysis of the biologically required properties of human language (if it exists) is purely a part of science” (p. 29). This biological property shall be referred to as the Universal Grammar.
Universal grammar theory asserts that certain concepts of grammar are hard-wired to the brain and manifest without being taught. According to Chomsky, the purpose of the Universal Grammar is to determine precisely the existence of the grammatical segments, including their interaction.
He points out that universal grammar is not grammar; it is a philosophy of how people learn grammar to structure a specific language.
Key Characteristics of Chomsky’s Model of Language Acquisition
- Everyone is born with the capacity to develop and learn any language.
- Language development is instinctive.
- Every newborn child has a “Language Acquisition Device,” or LAD for short.
- The LAD is a tool found in the brain; it enables the child to develop language rules rapidly.
- The LAD’s role is to encode the major skills involved in language learning, but with a focus on the encoding of grammar.
- Grammar is a vital skill needed for children to learn a language.
Check related: Nativist Theory of Language Acquisition.
Examples of the Theory of Language Acquisition Devices
What are some interesting examples of the Theory of Language Acquisition Devices?
In linguistics, there is a theory that explains language acquisition devices. It accounts for why children have such a natural predisposition to learning how to speak their native language. This article explores this theory in more detail and offers an overview of what it entails.
Children learn language through a process of trial and error. When they say, for example, a dog at the time that they see an animal with four legs, whiskers, and fur – in other words, when children are exposed to these features, it is no surprise that they use the sound “dog” to represent this new word.
Children’s minds are like sponges as their brains soak up everything around them, including language. This means that when a child hears or sees something, he/she will then make sense of what he/she has seen by creating his/her own representation of it. For example, if you ask a child, “What does a dog look like?” He may respond with “fuzzy.”
Check Related: Behaviorist Theory of Language Acquisition
Criticism and weakness of Theory of Language Acquisition Device
- The theory of Language Acquisition devices was criticized for being too simplistic.
- It is also argued that the language acquisition device fails to account for how children acquire a first language and instead only deals with how they learn a second language.
- Furthermore, it is said that the theory does not take into consideration other factors such as social interaction in learning a new language.